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How Kantharaj Agasa's ailing mother has inspired him to achieve greatness in ONE Championship

The Indian rising star opens up about his mom's critical health scare ahead of his flyweight bout at ONE 160.

On a professional level, flyweight mixed martial artist Kantharaj "Kannadiga" Agasa (11-3) is preparing for a career-defining bout against Thales Nakassu (5-1) at "ONE: 160: Ok vs. Lee II" on Friday, August 26.

But as a person, he's already faced some of his most pivotal challenges.

A family emergency

In December 2021, Agasa received a call from his mother, who wasn't feeling well. Within a week, her lingering ailment had turned into pain, and soon after, that pain transformed into agony.

However, the accomplished wrestler and judoka was almost 1,000 miles away from his hometown of Bhopal, working and training at the Sports Authority of India in Bangalore.

As the 30-year-old hurried home, his mother was rushed to the hospital, where doctors discovered that all four of her heart chambers were blocked, resulting in a life-threatening heart attack.

She would require open-heart surgery – but then the situation grew even worse.

"During treatment, her kidneys started getting hampered," Agasa recalled. "At that time, the doctors advised us that they couldn't (do the surgery]), as it could've led to a brain stroke. They would only be able to operate on her when her body was capable.

"She was kept in critical care unit) for 20 days until she recovered a bit. (Then), open-heart surgery was conducted. I was there with her for the entire duration."

In the time that followed, "Kannadiga" traveled back and forth from his professional obligations in Bangalore to his ailing mother in Bhopal on weekends. All the while, the Indian never quite knew if she would be there waiting for him each time he arrived back home.

In fact, the severity of his mother's heart condition led doctors to believe that a full recovery was uncertain, and with that in mind, Agasa cherished every moment together.

"In the beginning, taking care of my mother was like taking care of a newborn baby," he said. "I had to wake her up, take her to the restroom, and so on. My elder sister would help her with bathing. (My mother) used to feel good when I was around, which also helped her take her mind off (her illness).

"I kept telling myself that when she starts walking and eating on her own, it will be alright, and I (will) feel better, and fortunately it happened. She recovered well in those three months."

Gaining a new perspective on life

Just as Agasa was concerned about his mother, she was also worried about him.

Although his father was one of the best wrestlers in their state and earned good money, he eventually succumbed to an injury and couldn't find work. From then on, Agasa's mother became the sole provider for their family of six.

Due to these circumstances, she also wanted "Kannadiga" to focus on studying instead of martial arts, as she believed it would provide a better livelihood. However, the young athlete assured her that he would find a way to earn money in combat sports – while reminding himself of the very lesson she taught him as a child.

"She always told us that if we walk the right path, and if you work with all your heart, you will surely attain your goals," Agasa said.

Agasa is now achieving his goals, as he will carry a stellar 11-3 professional MMA record into his clash with Nakassu at ONE 160.

However, his mother's situation has also forced the Indian athlete to reconsider what's most important.

With time to reflect, he's concluded that although financial success and recognition are valuable, they don't compare to the feeling that somebody special is out there looking out for him.

"People keep running behind money and fame," Agasa said. "But if we achieve all that and don't have our loved ones with us, what's the point? Now, my perspective is clear. It doesn't matter if we have money or not. (What matters is if) our family and loved ones are together.

"One day we all must die, but when we are alive, why should we live separately from our loved ones? If my mother is no more, then who will take care of me? Who will ask me what I ate today? Whatever time we have, we should live together in harmony."

This story first published at ONEFC.com.